Stay within your limits!
Look, if a person becomes a jihadi because they were "provoked" by such innocuous and trivial things (and even more so, if they're "provoked" by something like the war in Iraq by which the West has made major sacrifices to bring the possibility of freedom to millions of Muslims in Iraq), then that person is not "lost" in any meaningful sense: they were lost to begin with. They are picking teams, their true colors are coming out.
The notion that there is a large group of Muslims out there who are "swing-jihadis," who could swing for civilization, or could swing for the jihad, and that we need to tempt them to our side, is absurd. The line between supporting murderous jihad and not supporting murderous jihad is not a fine line, it's a chasm. Anyone who could potentially become a jihadist is a lost cause from the get-go, and it's absurd to suggest we should be courting their goodwill.
The central problem with the NIE report, therefore, is that it presumed a particular moral judgment:
to say that the NIE shows the war is "creating" jihadis is no different from looking at social science data showing a correlation between crime and poverty, and saying that poverty therefore "causes" crime. Wrong, it's just data, and the moral judgment you draw from that data is your own.
Yarbles. Then my smartitude was confirmed by Krauthammer a few days later:
The question posed -- does the Iraq war increase or decrease the world supply of jihadists? -- is itself an exercise in counting angels on the head of a pin. Any answer would require a complex calculation involving dozens of unmeasurable factors, as well as construction of a complete alternate history of the world had the U.S. invasion of 2003 not happened.
He also pointed out that Iraq had been a rallying cry jihadis long before 2003. And as to the notion that any given "motivating factor" whatsoever is a "cause" of terrorism, Krauthammer was all:
does anyone imagine that had the jihadists in Iraq remained home they would now be tending petunias rather than plotting terror attacks?
No, they would not be tending petunias. Anyway, the lesson to be gleaned is that the authors of the NIE reached beyond their sphere of expertise, and did the work of philosophers when really their capability lies in collecting this data.
Now, here comes a story about a British coroner who has examined the body of a journalist killed in Iraq by a bullet fired from the gun of a U.S. soldier. Upon examining bone fragments and DNA, and reading a thermometer that had been skillfully inserted into the cold stiff anus of this man of letters, the British coroner has determined that a "war crime" occurred, because the U.S. soldiers were acting like cowboys. Let's follow his reasoning process:
Ok, he was shot in the head. By Americans. And...
"Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming," Walker said.
Um, I'm not sure how you get this from the corpse you're lookin' at, but anyway for the sake of argument let's say you're right ...
"There is no doubt that the minibus presented no threat to the American forces." [says Walker]
"There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire upon the minibus" [Walker says].
Ok, I think you skipped a step or three. Let me back up. Does your examination under microscope of the DNA of the deceased leave no room whatsoever for the possibility that the U.S. soldiers thought the minibus presented a threat somehow? And, has your dissection of his skull tissue fibers entirely foreclosed the possibility that the U.S. soldiers were not aiming at the minivan? Come to think of it, is the type of examination a coroner does really informative at all as to the legality of the act? Or, is that not a legal conclusion to be drawn later, based in part perhaps on a coroner's data, along with a host of other evidence and in light of the law, whatever the relevant law happens to be? Never mind, Walker is certain, as are the family members of the deceased:
Wow, lady, a very serious war crime, that sounds very serious.
A statement read by an attorney for Lloyd's widow, Lynn, said the court established that the "circumstances of his death from an American bullet whilst being ferried to hospital is a very serious war crime" and that the Marines should now stand trial.
Ok then. I mean, true, Lynn wasn't there, and well yes the journalist was shot during crossfire between Iraqis and the soldiers, and then the Iraqis for whatever reason helped the journalist into their minivan and sped away while the gunbattle raged, but I mean...well, I'll admit it, I'm not an expert in the law of warfare. So I'll defer to Lynn. I'm sure Lynn sits at home in the Midlands somewhere, studying Department of Defense protocols while feeding her cats and watching Big Brother. You go, Lynn.
Her statement said "U.S. forces appeared to have allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger-happy cowboys in an area in which there were civilians traveling on a highway, both Iraqi and European."
I've got an idea, while we're at it. How about this abortion debate? Some people are very committed to the idea that women have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies, while some people find that the life of the fetus is a more compelling consideration in most circumstances. Why don't we just bring in the CIA to issue another NIE telling us which moral consideration is more compelling. While they're at it, they can show how an increase in the number of abortions has "caused" an increase in abortion clinic bombings.
So my point is, everyone, please, stay within your limits. Intelligence-gathering-experts, gather your data. Coroners, coronate. CIA spooks are not moral philosophers, and I will not take them seriously when they look at a heap of data and draw the moral conclusion that a person who represents a number in that heap made a given moral choice because the world works according to determinism rather than according to human free will; and, I will mock and mock and mock when a coroner looks at the angle a bullet entered a body and from his findings make the legal conclusion that the firing of the bullet was a "very serious war crime". That's simply chock-full of dumbness. Not even grieving family members will be spared my stinging mockery.